My eighth principle for innovators is titled "Most new ideas aren't". To be honest, I've never been crazy about that title, because it focuses more on your ideas and less on what you're going to go with them. So what if you ideas aren't new? It simple doesn't do a good job of highlighting the major thrust of principle eight, which is to actively learn from the work of others. As I wrote in the original description, it's all about learning from others (which now more than ever is a completely free activity):
Accepting that someone else already had your idea is liberating, because it frees you up to learn. It moves the focus from what's going on in your head to what's going on in the world. Much of innovating is actually about stealing ideas from one context, connecting them to other ideas, and putting them to work in another. Where can you find analogous experiments or successes or failures that can inform your own work? Remember, before Facebook there was Friendster. And before the iPhone came the Newton. You can choose to live ignorance of what came before or what is happening in other parts of the world, or you can dive in and embrace all their hard-won lessons as your own.
Speaking of embracing someone else's hard-won lessons as your own, my friend and colleague Ryan Jacoby just pointed me to this fascinating interview with Tom Waits. Touching on many aspects of his career and creative process, it's fun ramble of a talk. To the point of this little essay of mine, Mr. Waits makes the following point about his own creativity:
Your head is a melting pot. You tell all the things you're listening to to get down and start melting. Trying to be original is kind of a futile thing.
I love this. Instead of making a bummer statement about new ideas not being new, it encourages you to embrace the creative wildness brewing back there in yer head. Crank up the heat. Use a pressure cooker. The more ideas you can access and learn from and combine — either via your individual memory banks or those of Google or your social networks — the better.
"Your head is a melting pot." How does that work as a new title for Principle Eight? If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please leave a comment below.
Eight, by the way, rhymes with Waits.